After remaining silent on the crisis, former US president Donald Trump has reappeared, hailing Russian President Vladimir Putin a “genius”.
After remaining silent on the crisis, former US president Donald Trump has hailed Russian President Vladimir Putin a “genius” and bragged that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would never have happened under his watch.
In his latest comments to conservative radio program The Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show, Mr Trump said he knew Putin “very well” and his tactics had been “smart” after ordering Russian forces into two rebels regions in eastern Ukraine, sparking fears of all-out war.
The hour-long interview took place at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, with Trump claiming Putin “liked me” and that despite being a “tough cookie”, the Russian president has “great charm and a lot of pride”.
“He loves his country. He’s acting a little differently now, I think he sees this opportunity,” he said.
Trump revealed “he “always knew” Putin “wanted Ukraine” and that the pair had conversations about it while Trump was US President.
“I said, ‘you can’t do it, you’re not going to do it’. But I could see that he wanted it.”
When asked about Putin recognising those breakaway regions in Ukraine as independent, Trump said: “I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, ‘This is genius.’ Putin declares a big portion … of Ukraine, Putin declares it as independent.”
Around 10,000 Russian troops have entered the breakaway territories of Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine – known collectively as the Donbas region — while Russian authorities have denied Ukraine’s right to sovereignty.
The regions have been in the control of pro — Russia separatists for almost a decade.
“So, Putin is now saying, ‘It’s independent,’ a large section of Ukraine. I said, ‘How smart is that?’ And he’s gonna go in and be a peacekeeper. That’s [the] strongest peace force,” Trump said.
Trump went on to brag “this never would have happened” if Trump was still in the White House, and made a brief argument the US could use Putin’s tactics on the Mexican border.
“By the way, this never would have happened with us. Had I been in office, not even thinkable. This would never have happened.
“We could use that on our southern border.
“There were more army tanks than I’ve ever seen. You gotta say that’s pretty savvy. And you know what the response was from Biden? There was no response. They didn’t have one for that. No, it’s very sad. Very sad.”
US President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced a first round of sanctions against two Russian banks and the country’s wealthy elite after what he said was Moscow’s move to invade Ukraine.
“This is the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine,” Biden said in a televised speech at the White House.
Biden warned more sanctions will follow if Putin extends Russia’s military grip beyond the two small territories.
Russia said that new US sanctions will meet a “strong response”.
“There should be no doubt — sanctions will meet a strong response, not necessarily symmetrical, but well-calibrated and sensitive for the American side,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement
Meanwhile Putin appeared in a video address overnight, saying he is ready for “diplomatic solutions” surrounding the crisis but Russia’s interests are “non-negotiable”.
In a long message to Russians, where he bragged, “we have weapons that are second to none in the world and they are operational”.
“Comrade officers,” he said.
“Ensuring that our country can defend itself remains a primary responsibility of government, and the Armed Forces serve as a reliable guarantee of our national security, the peaceful and orderly lives of our people and Russia’s stable and steady development.
“We can see the difficult international situation and the threats posed by current challenges, such as the erosion of the arms control system and NATO’s military activities.
“And yet, Russia’s appeals to build a system of equal and indivisible security that would reliably defend all countries, remain unanswered.
“Our country is always open to a direct and honest dialogue and ready to search for diplomatic solutions to the most complicated issues.
“But I want to repeat that Russia’s interests and the security of our people are an indisputable priority. So, we will continue to strengthen and modernise our Army and Navy, striving to increase their effectiveness, so they are fitted out with the most cutting-edge equipment.
“We will continue to develop promising weapon systems, including hypersonic weapons and those based on new physical principles, and expand the use of advanced digital technology and elements of artificial intelligence. Complexes like these are weapons of the future, which can boost the potential of our Armed Forces several-fold.
“As Supreme Commander-in-Chief, I have confidence in you, Russian soldiers and officers, in your high professionalism, bravery and reliability, that you will guard the peace of our people, and stand up for the national interests of our great country.”